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Spring Training Notes 3/17: H-E-B Big League Weekend begins

The fifth annual H-E-B Big League Weekend exhibition series between the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers is officially underway from the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX.

A yearly baseball tradition is beginning to take form within the confines of a stadium more known for its football games.

The Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers have commenced their two-game exhibition series on Friday and Saturday at the Alamodome.

With opening day between the two teams over two weeks away, the Tribe's Game 1 roster construction continues to be a work in progress.

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- Not only does the fifth annual H-E-B Big League Weekend provide fans an opportunity to watch MLB players in March, but it also allows manager Terry Francona to mix up his starting lineups to help fill out an April roster, a difficult task for a club plagued by injuries over the last six months.

Injuries to Jason Kipnis (strained right rotator cuff) and Michael Brantley (right shoulder) have paved way to intriguing positional battles in the infield and outfield at big league camp. If both players start the year on the disabled list, then other internal options may have to take on an elevated role as early as Apr. 3.

To help get a better idea of who is capable of playing where, Francona decided to start Yandy Diaz at third base and Richie Shaffer in left field on Friday, a rare defensive placement for each player this spring.

Diaz has only logged seven innings at the hot corner in 2017, but could earn an MLB role if Jose Ramirez shifts to second base, a position he has not played regularly since 2015 at Triple-A Columbus.

Even though Shaffer profiles as more of a corner infielder, he will be tested in LF despite having seven innings of experience at the position between the major and minor leagues. If Francona has five outfielders on the opening day roster like he did in 2016, then Shaffer's versatility may come into play.

- Francona's experimental defense can be found in his starting lineup for the later split-squad contest vs. Cincinnati on Friday at 9 PM ET...

Austin Jackson CF

Bradley Zimmer RF

Yan Gomes C

Edwin Encarnacion 1B

Yandy Diaz 3B

Giovanny Urshela DH

Richie Shaffer LF

Erik Gonzalez SS

Ronny Rodriguez 2B

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.

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